October 31, 2007

My $.02

Original post is at Wide Open.

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I’m delegating most of my thoughts on what has to be seen, barring divine intervention, as the end of this particular “Wide Open” experiment, but not the end of wide-open experimentation, to Jill, who said it all (WLST link) pretty darn well.

If you want my perspective on yesterday’s and last evening’s events, go here.

If you want to see, or care about, the standards I’ve imposed on myself to ensure credibly perceived blogging, go here. I don’t expect others to reach the same conclusions I have about abstaining from political contributions, but I really do think that we’re going to have to wrestle with what disclosures readers routinely have a right to expect from those who choose to make them, whether it’s on proprietary or co-op blogs. I also find it odd that several of those who are seemingly obsessed with having conflict-free, fully-disclosed politicians, and who seem to concentrate their fire on those who aren’t from their party, don’t seem to have a problem with keeping their own potential conflicts of interest from their readers.

This post isn’t as much a resignation as it is an observation that the whole thing has sort of blown up, and it looks like there’s nothing left to resign from.

As with Jill, I have nothing but nice things to say about Jean Dubail and Chris Jindra, and thanks to all who visited Wide Open, moreso to those who commented there.

I do believe that somebody’s going to make this type of thing work (don’t ask me to define “this type of thing”). A Buffoon of the Month congressman, a newspaper that didn’t anticipate the potential pitfalls, and a bit of impetuousness have prevented that from happening at WO.

Looking forward, we’re still at our homes (me, Jill, Jeff, and Dave).

And there’s a Carnival of Ohio Politics to catch up on.

The Jeff Coryell-PD-Wide Open Thing

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Wide Open — Tom @ 3:48 pm

It’s interesting how this is turning out, because it’s running against the “accepted” stereotype. That would be the one about how conservatives are rugged “on your own” individualists and liberals are team players.

The three of us (Jill, Dave, and I) learned of Jeff Coryell’s involuntary termination in an e-mail from the PD Online’s Jean Dubail yesterday at about 4:40. I’m not the best mind reader (doh-obvious at this point), but what I thought I saw was evidence of a strong disagreement, not clear antagonism. Sure, this was only one side of the story, but I saw nothing to indicate that Jeff was in anything but an “agree to disagree” mode.

I had to leave at 5:00, fully intending to send Jeff an I’ll-miss-your-work, good-luck e-mail at about 9:30 when I returned.

Obviously, all hell broke loose in the interim.

It took a while after digesting (and feeling) the outrage to get to what I think the real questions should be, which is why I tend not to do knee-jerk posts.

Why didn’t Jeff tell us what he planned to do first? Or (better) even ask us if he should do it? Or if there wasn’t something we could do to renegotiate the ground rules? Or to collectively quit if we came to the conclusion that the situation couldn’t be solved? If he didn’t trust the two righties, why not at least run these questions by Jill? (since his Ohio Daily Blog post went up less than an hour after the Dubail e-mail, I’m assuming he didn’t contact her — if I’m wrong, Jill will surely set me straight :–>)

People demanding that “we” resign in solidarity are asking us to react in support of a person, who I thought was part of a team, who instead decided to start throwing verbal bombs not just at the decision to terminate him, but at Wide Open’s entire operation and concept.

Jeff should know that this is (with each passing hour, looking more like “was”) about bigger things. It’s about whether a traditional news operation can co-exist with the blogosphere. (Semi-related — Interestingly, though I was clearly getting under the newsroom’s skin with the Imam Alzaree story, not once was I ever cautioned to lighten up.) It’s about whether two righties and lefties can co-exist on the same blog at a relatively civil level of discourse, even in the presence of less-than-civil commenters. I can tell you that these past six-plus weeks have been tense, often very intense, but that the four of us were making progress towards informal “ground rules” and boundaries that we were getting more comfortable with. Everybody was bending and accommodating to an extent. I don’t think it was happening as fast as any of the four of would have liked, but it was happening.

Ultimately, this is about the evolution of the news gathering, reporting and analysis process. We were part of that; now it seems likely that we won’t be. Don’t get me wrong — the PD gets a large share of the blame for why we are where we are, especially its clumsy handling of Buffoon of the Month Congressman LaTourette, but I have a hard time believing that something couldn’t have been worked out.

It’s more than a little likely that all of us would have backed Jeff totally in light of his treatment, had we heard his side before the rest of the world. But we’ll never know; he never gave us the chance. I for one don’t appreciate that, and I believe I have every right not to appreciate that.

I also don’t appreciate the idea that Jeff either didn’t understand what the ultimate outcome of his in-effect call-to-arms would be (doubtful), or that he appeared not to care about the possibility that three people he called “friends” might involuntarily lose their gigs too. You’re not an island, pal.

Now anyone considering an MSM-blog coop effort has to know that any one member can, and that some will, ruin it for the rest of his or her team when things get too difficult. Again, the PD owns a lot of the blame, probably even the majority of it, but this is not a good precedent.

I do wish Jeff all the best in his future endeavors, and have e-mailed him to that effect.

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UPDATE: Here’s one the leftosphere will probably consider a whitewash, the rightosphere might take as vindication, and objectivesphere should sit up and notice. Ex-PDer Bill Sloat of the Daily Bellwether, who would be expected to have sources out the wazoo on this, has given them some exercise

Although the congressman has widely been portrayed as the heavy, sources The Daily Bellwether spoke to all agreed that LaTourette did not ask for a firing, played no role in the sacking of Coryell, did not express anger, nor put pressure on the newspaper or threaten it in any way. The sources do agree that LaTourette spoke to The Plain Dealer’s editorial page editor, Brent Larkin, briefly earlier this month about Coryell’s work appearing on the newspaper’s Web site. Coryell’s name reportedly came up when Federal Election Commission campaign finance records were made public, and LaTourette mentioned to Larkin that Coryell had given money to the congressman’s Democratic opponent, former Ohio Court of Appeals Judge William O’Neill. LaTourette is supposed to have said something like “what’s up with that” during a brief chat, but did not suggest or demand that Coryell be fired, the sources say.

Jeff’s original contention:

I was fired because LaTourette complained. It would not have happened if LaTourette did not exert pressure.

Jeff’s reax to Sloat’s post:

I do not believe it for a minute. I was on the ultimate receiving end of the pressure and heard much about it in the weeks before my firing.

My take — Both Jeff’s and LaTourette’s contentions can exist in the same universe:

  • LaTourette “complains”/”mentions.”
  • Larkin gets his undies in a bunch at perceived displeasure.
  • Inside a lumbering bureaucracy, “displeasure” turns into “pressure” (hey, they almost rhyme).
  • Eventually, the paper decides to be “super-safe,” and lets Coryell go.
  • More like super-dumb. It walks, talks and looks like pressure to Jeff, because by that time it is, while LaTourette wonders what the big deal was.

This is why congresspersons have to watch their every word and gesture. LaTourette’s buffoonery in the episode is fully intact.

Since ‘Everybody’ Is Wondering (and Before Y’all Die of Boredom Looking)

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:10 am

….. I’m sorry to disappoint Pho, who wrote this side-splitter (“Hmmm. Keeping Blumer’s jack out of Ohio GOP coffers may make all this worthwhile.”)

This is it — One candidate endorsement; one piddling contribution wayyyyy too small to make this list; no other contributions to any candidates or issues.

After making my piddling contribution, I disclosed its existence and my endorsement of Bill Pierce in every Pierce- and DeWine-related post until Primary Election Day 2006.

I had the general mindset that it would not be a good idea to make political contributions when I started BizzyBlog. Then, a couple of months after startup, I consciously decided not to do that as a policy when it became clear during the 2005 OH-02 Special Congressional Primary that doing so would affect the perceived quality of my work. The 2006 Pierce for Senate primary campaign was and will remain the sole exception. If you knew Bill Pierce, you’d know why.

In the CPA profession, there are two important concepts: “independence in appearance” and “independence in fact.” You can mentally have independence in fact if you or anyone in your firm owns a very few shares of a company you’re auditing, but a sizable portion of the public won’t see it that way, no matter how much you protest to the contrary. Accordingly, rather than debase the perceived quality of audited financial statements and other reports, the profession has decided that independence in appearance is a critical ethical standard that must be adhered to. This means, with the very rarest of exceptions, that you and other firm members NEVER own any stock of, or make any kind of investments in, the companies your firm audits.

Likewise, I believe that you can be a fair and yet opinionated blogger while giving nominal amounts to political candidates and political causes. But as with auditing, a sizable portion of the public won’t see it that way, no matter how much you protest to the contrary. Accordingly, though I believe that nominal contributions would not affect my outlook, and I recognize that others might not make the same decisions with their blogging, I have decided that the perceived quality and credibility of what I bring up and have to say require that I have the same independence in appearance with political candidates and political causes that the CPA profession expects of its members and member firms.

That, and I’m cheeeeeep. :–>

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UPDATE, Nov. 1 — An IMO legitimate question has been raised, and will be addressed here. It has to do with election-law complaints I filed against Ohio 2nd District Congressional candidate Bob McEwen in December 2005 and March 2006. One resulted in a reprimand, the other went nowhere.

Though others will disagree, I happen to think that a blogger with his/her own site can engage in activism such as this without compromising fairness or credibility. I consider it analogous to seeing what you honestly believe is a crime being committed and reporting it to authorities. Why wouldn’t you do that? I would even suggest that establishment news organizations shouldn’t shy away from filing election-law complaints if they believe the situation is an obvious violation and no one else will step up.

Although I have been a NewsBusters contributor since late 2005, the site gave me Contributing Editor privileges in July 2006. This is no trifle. NB only has about a dozen Contributing Editors, and given the other relative luminaries on the list, it still seems ridiculous that I’m among them (but I’m not about to withdraw :–>).

Although I didn’t feel compelled to mention it at the time, at that point I made a conscious decision to get out of activist actions like filing election law complaints, working on campaigns, and the like. I felt, and still feel, that as a recognized representative of NewsBusters and its Media Research Center parent, I owe it to them to take that stance and stick with it, because there is nothing resembling a consensus on the aggressive position I outlined two paragraphs ago.

I don’t necessarily like the self-imposed restraint, but I think it’s appropriate. I’m not suggesting the other Contributing Editors see things the way I do, or that they should. This is just how I choose to operate.

Another ‘Worst Economy Since Hoover’ Update: 3rd Quarter Advance GDP Growth Is 3.9%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:46 am

Stealing the tag line used by Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion any time there is good news about the economy — This is how the press release from Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis opens:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the third quarter of 2007, according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 3.8 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the third-quarter “advance” estimates are based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 3). The third-quarter “preliminary” estimates, based on more comprehensive data, will be released on November 29, 2007.

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, federal government spending, equipment and software, nonresidential structures, private inventory investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by a negative contribution from residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

Translation: Despite the housing drag, the rest of the economy is fine.

See for yourself: Combined with the second quarter’s final reading of 3.8%, the 7.7% two-quarter GDP growth total, if it holds up or improves in future revisions, is higher than any two consecutive quarters since Q3 & Q4 of 2003′s combined 10.2% (7.5% +2.7%). The last time there were two consecutive quarters of 3.8% or higher was Q3 & Q4 of 1999′s 4.8% and 7.3%.

Another tenth of a percent to get to 4.0 would have been really nice. I suspect 4% would get a lot more coverage than 3.9%. We’ll see how Old Media handles it.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (103107)

I’m surprised that this exists, and it needs to go away:

The Ohio House is expected to vote Tuesday to end Ohio’s unique policy of reducing a jobless senior’s unemployment benefits by the amount the person receives in Social Security.

But Gov. Ted Strickland has not yet decided whether he will sign the bill if it is passed by the House, said spokesman Keith Dailey. Strickland supports the concept but would like to see it as part of a broader package of benefit reforms. The Senate passed the measure in May.

Ohio is the only state in the nation to have a full Social Security offset – where 100 percent of a person’s Social Security benefit is subtracted from the amount of unemployment benefits due.

Since there is a linkage between what you put into Social Security and what you get out (never mind that what you get out is really the next generation’s current contributions; that’s a discussion for another time), I find it amazing that Ohio lawmakers ever decided it was a good idea to intercept Social Security benefits this way. More fundamentally, I’m surprised the federal government either let it stand, or that it survived a challenge if one occurred.

The Governor shouldn’t even be thinking about holding the repeal hostage to other measures. Just consign the SocSec offset to the ash heap of history, and be done with it.

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Lay convicted — No, not “Kenny boy,” Mark Lay:

Mark D. Lay once was a rising star in the high-powered investment world, running a firm that managed more than $4 billion in assets and making frequent appearances on CNBC.

Yesterday, a federal jury found him guilty of fraud in the loss of $216 million of Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation money in a Bermuda-based hedge fund that Lay’s MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh managed.

Lay, 44, of Aliquippa, Pa., sat back in his chair and held his head in his hands briefly as the guilty verdicts were read on charges of investment advisory fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and two counts of mail fraud.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine, although his attorney expects the prison term will be less based on federal sentencing guidelines. The jury also decided Lay must forfeit $590,526 in fees that MDL was paid to manage the fund.

Reminder: Tom Noe lost the Bureau of Workers’ Comp about $50 million. Most or possibly more than that has been or will be recovered (though the time value of money losses must of course be recognized). Meanwhile Mark Lay’s $216 million (or $215.4 million, if you believe Lay will ever pony up his ill-gotten fees) isn’t coming back, and Ohio taxpayers and/or Workers’ Comp premium payers are stuck with the consequences for as long as the should-be-privatized BWC continues to exist. Yet Noe’s errant ways gained exponentially more publicity because of his GOP connections, while Lay’s extensive Dem ties have gotten ridiculously short shrift. Anyone who can explain this disparate treatment as anything other than Ohio Old Media determination to take out the GOP as the party in power in Columbus is welcome to try.

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A Republican congressman wants an earmark for a mule museum. Let the pun-ishment over this ass-inine idea begin.

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The Associated Press’s Nedra Pickler plays the gender card for Hillary after last night’s Dem debate in her very first sentence:

In the City of Brotherly Love, there wasn’t much for a sister.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rivals ganged up on her during a two-hour Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, putting the front-runner on defense on issues ranging from Iraq and Iran to Social Security and whether she would be electable in the general election.

Nedra’s undercurrent: “How dare they?”

Earth to Nedra: You, as a supposedly “objective” reporter, don’t get to pretend she’s untouchable because she’s a “sister.”

Politico has more, and though it goes slightly overboard, does an overall better job with its coverage.

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Warren Buffett, quoted in the UK Guardian:

The United States’ second-richest man has delivered a blunt message to the Bush administration: he wants to pay more tax.

Warren Buffett, the famous investor known as the “Sage of Omaha”, has complained that he pays a lower rate of tax than any of his staff – including his receptionist.

Then why doesn’t he just write a check?

Positivity: ‘Right Suit Saved Life of Angler’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:46 am

Sometimes what you do to prepare, saves you.

From Aberdeen, UK:

12:00 – 29 October 2007

An Angler swept into the sea near Aberdeen was today praised for wearing clothes which saved his life.

The man was trapped in a “melting pot” of water between two wedges of rock for 40 minutes before rescuers reach him.

And Maritime Rescue Institute lifeboat coxswain Hamish McDonald said: “This man cannot be commended enough for doing everything right. He was wearing a flotation suit which helped keep up his body temperature as well as helping with buoyancy.

“He also managed to grab on to his fishing bag which had also fallen into the sea. This acted like a liferaft for him.

“I’ve no doubt that suit played a major part in saving his life.

“That and being between two outcrops of rock where the biggest swell could not reach him. Like a melting pot but a safe one.”

The drama began yesterday around 3pm when police in Aberdeen got a 999 call from another angler fishing on rocks just south of Doonies near Old Portlethen.

On-shore coastguards guided the five-man crew of the MRI vessel to the spot where the stricken fisherman was clinging to rocks.

After getting him on board they sped back to Stonehaven where paramedics took him to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary under police escort.

He was detained overnight while he was treated for hypothermia. But his condition was not believed to be serious.

Go here for the rest of the story.

October 30, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (103007)

Well, this is a switch (HT Plunderbund) — This is great, but as noted here several months ago when commenting on Ohio’s $700 million carryforward surplus, there’s no good reason why the 4.2% income tax reduction in Ohio’s individual income shouldn’t have gone into effect this year instead of 2008 (further reductions in 2006, as noted at the time, would have been even better). That is, unless Governor Strickland thinks delaying Ohio’s economic recovery for a year is a good idea.

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Cynthia Crossen of the Wall Street Journal dug into history and found some nuggets (subscription required) the fundamentally deceptive Food Stamp Challenge crowd and their co-opted Old Media allies would surely prefer that you not see. It’s the story of the WWI-era Diet Squads, back in the day when “publicity stunts” were designed to help people take control of their lives instead of to help the government assume more:

The diet squad was a publicity stunt by Chicago’s health department to prove that nutritious and satisfying meals could also be cheap. Since the beginning of World War I, food prices had shot up; between 1914 and 1920, the cost of food for an average American family more than doubled. Malnourishment was becoming a public-health problem, especially in cities. And people were starting to complain about “the food pirates who have America by its throat,” as an Ohio newspaper put it.

Chicago’s diet squad was one of the first, but diet squads soon began popping up all over America. The volunteers competed to see how inexpensively they could eat without losing weight. Fifteen students at the University of Pennsylvania tried a 30-cent-a-day diet. A Rutgers College diet squad found that 27 cents a day was the “irreducible minimum.” Beth Israel Hospital in New York concluded that a family of two adults and three children could be adequately fed for $7.31 a week ($138.51 now).

Lo and behold, the current Food Stamp benefit for a family of five is $615 per month, or $141 and change per week — and that’s before taking into account the massive productivity improvements in food production and related real-dollar retail price reductions over the past 90 years.

Those who read here have already learned that Food Stamp benefits are adequate by following the saga of Ari and Jenny Armstrong, as they stayed within the Food Stamp Program’s benefit (before means testing) by a whopping 44% for an entire month.

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Bret Pretulsky on the Coulter-end times-Jewish perfection thing:

Many people, knowing that I’m Jewish, have asked me if I was deeply offended by Ann Coulter’s observation that Jews are unperfected Christians. I could tell that I disappointed them when I said that I wasn’t even slightly upset.

For one thing, I am not religious. What people do or don’t believe, theologically speaking, is none of my business, except in the case of Islamics who want the rest of us dead or at least kneeling to Mecca.

….. It’s by their actions that I judge people. And in my experience, American Christians are essentially kind, tolerant, admirable people. I did not take Ann Coulter’s statement as an example of hate speech. Frankly, I don’t believe she has an anti-Semitic bone in her body. What I do find bizarre is that so many Jews, who side with the Arabs against Israel and whose children applauded Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, are demanding Coulter’s head on a pike.

That is one richly-deserved needle.

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John Fund, writing on the misnamed Fairness Doctrine, blows right past a brilliant strategy by Mike Pence, the Indiana congressman who wants to make its repeal permanent (bold is mine):

In June his first effort to impose a one-year moratorium on any revival of the Fairness Doctrine by the FCC passed, 309-115, with nearly half of House Democrats voting in favor.
But a one-year moratorium was an easy vote, because there is no reason to expect the Fairness Doctrine to make a comeback before 2009, when a new president–perhaps a Democrat–appoints a majority of FCC commissioners.

That’s why Mr. Pence is proposing the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill that would permanently bury the Fairness Doctrine. Because House Democratic leaders are unlikely to allow it to come to the floor for a vote, Mr. Pence has launched a “discharge petition,” a device to bypass House committees and move the bill directly to the floor. He needs 218 members–a House majority–to sign the petition. He has collected 185 signatures, but all from Republicans. Democrats are being told by their leadership that signing such a petition would undermine their control of the House.

Those who voted for the one-year extension need to be challenged as to why, if a one-year extension of a fundamental freedom is a good idea, a permanent one isn’t. Their general election opponents should jump all over this. NOT signing such a petition should undermine that representative’s control of his or her congressional seat.

Better question: Why didn’t the last Congress vote in a permanent burial of the Fairness Doctrine when it was still in the majority?

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Sell all your (actively managed) mutual funds? Paul Farrell of MarketWatch writes that this is exactly what Ric Edelman suggests in his new book “The Lies About Money: Achieving Financial Security and True Wealth by Avoiding the Lies Others Tell Us, and the Lies We Tell Ourselves.”

My take (not to be considered investment advice) — Even if the rampant corruption and double-dealing Edelman alleges didn’t exist — Actively managed funds (the ones Edelman is really concerned about0, which are the ones that try to outperform the market, have been shown time and again to fall short of that goal anywhere from 65%-80% of the time (I think it’s really closer to 80% over the long-term).

To find one of the 20% or so that might outperform the market (emphasis on might, unless your crystal ball is better than mine), you have to do a lot of homework, and keep up with the fund managers are doing. That’s way too much work to expect of the average person.

Because of that, most investors are better off in index (passively managed) mutual funds. These funds invest in the same stocks (or bonds) that are in a given recognized index. For example, an S&P 500 fund will invest in the 500 stocks that are currently part of the S&P 500 in proportion to their market values. These funds will perform as the index performs, minus a very small percentage (much smaller than active funds) for expenses.

Unless an investor is extremely fortunate in picking active funds, over the long haul the typical investor will be better off having stayed consistently with index funds.

Unfortunately, the headlines surrounding the book, and the issue, are ignoring the fundamental difference between active and index funds. That’s too bad.

Positivity: Cummings Coach Thanks Those Who Saved His Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:47 am

From Burlington, NC:

Last Edited: Monday, 29 Oct 2007, 9:48 PM EDT
Created: Monday, 29 Oct 2007, 9:48 PM EDT

Three weeks ago, Andy Hawks collapsed and his heart stopped. On Monday night, as his school’s football team played a game postponed from Friday, the Cummings coach talked about how being at work probably saved his life.

“I started teaching and that’s the last thing I remember,” Hawks recalled. “I remember I had a big knot on the side of my head. They claim I fell and hit my head. Some of the kids said I tried to get up and fell again.”

Hawks wasn’t breathing and his heart wasn’t beating.

A student ran for help, and three coaches and the school nurse administered CPR until paramedics arrived.

Hawks lives on 15 acres in a rural part of Alamance County, and he wonders how things would have turned out if the cardiac event happened at home. “I’d do the same for them … but thank God they were there for me this time,” he said.

It turns out Hawks didn’t have a heart attack. Doctors believe his heart skipped a beat, then stopped.

As the Cummings coach continues to heal, he passes the time by reading the piles of well-wishes that arrive at his house.

Go here for the rest of the story.

October 29, 2007

Imam Ahmed Alzaree Resigns from Islamic Center of Cleveland (with Links to Previous Posts; Update: AP Headline Hits Rock Bottom)

Filed under: Marvels,Wide Open — Tom @ 3:49 pm

From the Plain Dealer’s blog, by David Briggs:

New Cleveland imam quits before he starts

Imam Ahmed Alzaree announced Monday, three days before he was to start work as the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, that he was resigning.

Alzaree said allegations by bloggers that he was anti-Semitic and was associated with individuals suspected of having terrorist ties so poisoned the atmosphere in Northeast Ohio that he and his wife, Marwa, decided to look elsewhere.

“Cleveland now is a nightmare for her,” Alzaree said. “It will never be a good start for me and the Jewish community.

The mosque has accepted Alzaree’s resignation, Zahid Siddiqi, general secretary of the mosque’s executive committee, said Monday afternoon.

“We certainly don’t want to impose on him and his family,” Siddiqi said.

Alzaree is the former spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Omaha.

Well, well.

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UPDATES (exclusively at BizzyBlog):

Update 1: Don’t miss Patrick Poole’s post-departum on Alzaree. And this should have been said hours ago — intense appreciation is owed to Patrick for his lion’s share of the research.

Update 2: Briggs posted a much longer piece just after 5PM, apparently for the Metro section.

Update 2A: Here are the final five paragraphs from Briggs’s update:

As of Thursday afternoon, Alzaree had been planning to come to Cleveland, vowing to make an extra effort to reach out to Jewish and Christian leaders.

But as Web sites such as Central Ohioans Against Terrorism and Jihad Watch continued to probe, using such terms as “two-faced jihadist,” Alzaree said he and his wife concluded they could never have a good beginning in Northeast Ohio.

“I leave the field” to the bloggers, he said Monday. “I have peace now.”

Alzaree said he will decide among a half-dozen other job offers.

The Parma mosque will resume its search for an imam, said Zuhair Hasan, the new mosque president.

Apparently curiosity is still in short supply at the Plain Dealer. You would think inquiring minds would want to know what happened to extensively-quoted and now-former mosque president Dr. Jalal Abu-Shaweesh in the past few days. Abu-Shaweesh took over the mosque’s presidency in late 2005, and was interviewed in the December edition of the Cleveland Muslim (go to page 3 at the link). 22-23 months doesn’t seem like a normal presidential term (/understatement).

Update 3: Others taking note — LGF, RAB, WOIO, The C-Square.

Update 4, Oct. 30: Still others — Right Wing Rebel, Eye on the World (“A good Muslim can’t even call for the death of the Jews? Oh, the humanity!”), zTruth (“What would he have been teaching? I think you know the answer.”), Jawa Report, Interested-Participant, The Path.

Update 5, Oct. 30, 1PM (this item is also noted at Wide Open and NewsBusters): Oh for cryin’ out loud, the Associated Press has found a way to simultaneously hit rock bottom and continue digging — “Blog critics force imam to resign at Ohio mosque.” And it’s all over the place — Ohio.com, MSNBC, JPost, IHT, with surely others to come.

Two words for AP: As if.

Update 6, Nov. 1: The UK Times Online’s Faith Central has a short post.

Update 7, Nov. 20: Andrew Bostom of the New English Review, and whose articles on Islam and jihad have appeared in Frontpage Magazine and The American Thinker, has this to say about Damra, Alzaree, and the Hadith:

And just this past October 30, 2007 it was announced that Imam Ahmed Alzaree—the first permanent successor to Damra—resigned as the new “spiritual leader” of the Islamic Center of Cleveland three days prior to officially beginning the job. Alzaree, who at one stage of the vetting process expressed the unusual reservation that “he would not come to Cleveland because a reporter was inquiring about his background,” ostensibly accepted the position as noted on October 26, 2007, then pre-emptively resigned a few days later, after the contents of “khutbahs ” (sermons) he had delivered on March 7, 2003, were revealed.

Alzaree’s March, 2003 sermons are in fact far worse than has been portrayed by the Cleveland media. One assumes that either they have not been read at all, or at best only perused, and those reading these sermons, by and large, have no idea about the virulently Antisemitic motifs in the Koran and hadith (i.e., the words, deeds, and even physical gestures of Muhammad as recorded by pious Muslim transmitters). Moreover, these sermons were also virulently Christianophobic, invoking combined anti-Christian/Jew-hating motifs from the Koran (for example, Koran 4:157-159), as well as anti-Christian eschatology (linked explicitly to Jew-hating eschatology) from the hadith, particularly with regard to “Jesus,” or to be precise, the Muslim simulacrum of Jesus, “Isa,” as characterized in Islam’s foundational texts. Alzaree simply recounts Islamic doctrine (as per the Koran and hadith) regarding “Isa”—the Muslim Jesus—which emphasizes the Jews overall perfidy, especially their gloating (but unknowingly “false”) claim to have killed Isa.According to this sacralized Islamic narrative, Isa is merely a Muslim prophet whose ultimate “job description” includes the destruction of Christianity. Thus Alzaree’s sermon invokes the canonical hadith that this Muslim Jesus—who was never crucified—the perfidious Jews prodding the Roman’s to kill Isa’s “body double”—will return as a full-throated Muslim to break the cross, kill the pig, and end the payment of the deliberately humiliating Koranic (9:29) poll-tax demanded of Christians (i.e., the jizya). This hadith states, “He [Isa] will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizya”—because Christians will be converted to Islam (and thus exempt from the jizya), or eliminated—“Allah will perish all religions except Islam.” Alzaree concluded the second sermon with an apocalyptic canonical hadith—repeated in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in article 7)—stating if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!

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Previous Posts:

  • Sept. 25 — Meet the New Imam, Same as the Old Imam?
  • Sept. 29 — Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up: Who WAS That Cleveland.com Blogger? (at the Plain Dealer’s Wide Open blog)
  • Oct. 2 — COAT’s Imam Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up
  • Oct. 25 — Imam Ahmed Alzaree and the Islamic Center of Cleveland Follow-up: Part 1
  • Oct. 25 — Imam Ahmed Alzaree and the Islamic Center of Cleveland Follow-up: Part 2

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org and Wide Open.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (102907)

This quote’s a few days old but worth repeatingfrom Megan McArdle, on education (HT Instapundit):

MEGAN MCARDLE on education: “Every time I see some middle class parent prattling about vouchers ‘destroying’ the public schools by ‘cherry picking’ the best students, when they’ve made damn sure that their own precious little cherries have been plucked out of the failing school systems, I seethe with barely controllable inward rage. It is the vilest hypocrisy on display in American politics today.

If not the vilest, darn close.

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Dick Morris outlines “What She’d Do: Hillary’s Hidden Agenda.” If anyone outside of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle would know, he would.

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This will drive Jim Dobson crazy:

Former Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback emerged from a meeting with pro-abortion GOP hopeful Rudy Giuliani and said Friday he is more comfortable with the former mayor. The former New York leader invited Brownback, a key pro-life lawmaker in Congress, to talk with him about abortion.

Brownback made it clear he did not endorse Giuliani — he hasn’t endorsed any presidential candidate yet — but he said he is “much more comfortable” with Rudy Giuliani’s position on abortion.

George Will has related relevant observations on the issue in general.

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Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey comments on the Mother of All Tax Increases (MOAT), and notes an alternative (link requires paid subscription):

Contrary to its deceptive name, Mr. Rangel’s bill is not tax relief, but a breathtaking tax increase. And it is not tax reform, but just another round of new complexity layered on top of the existing tax code, with tweaked provisions, changed definitions and redistributed income to favored groups through carefully crafted new subsections. Compliance with the 60,000-page tax code costs Americans seven billion man-hours and over $140 billion in fees to accountants and consultants, all before a single check is cut to the government. While the AMT may be repealed by this bill, the inefficiencies and burdens that keep Washington lobbyists employed full time remain.

To be clear, the $140 billion is only what is paid out by taxpayers. The cost of the 7 billion hours in compliance is separate, and is roughly 48 hours for each person in the current workforce of 146 million. Think of what could be produced (i.e., added to GDP) if those 48 hours were used for a productive purpose.

The alternative looks like it would free up a lot of those hours:

Thankfully, there’s an alternative to Mr. Rangel’s redistributive approach, and it’s being offered by a group of pro-growth tax reformers in the House of Representatives. “The Taxpayer Choice Act,” is being offered by Reps. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), and John Campbell (R., Calif.) that repeals the AMT while fundamentally reforming the tax code.

These young Republican legislative entrepreneurs offer taxpayers the choice of remaining in the current system with its itemized deductions, charts and schedules, or moving into a greatly simplified system that eliminates all deductions and loopholes while offering only two simple rates. All taxpayers would have a standard individual deduction of $12,500, and individuals earning below $100,000 would pay a flat 10% of income, while individuals earning above that would pay 25%. Calculating taxes would take less time than brewing a pot of coffee.

I’d like to include a twist to the 1040 that would have a taxpayer who clearly would owe nothing STOP at some point in the return, with a sign-off that basically says, “It should be obvious at this point that I/we don’t owe anything. Give me/us our money back. Leave me/us alone.”

Libs will go crazy over the 25% rate, of course. But here’s the fun part, from polling data a few years ago:

Poll data suggest that the wealthy are already paying more in taxes than the bulk of Americans think they should. A Zogby poll last year asked people what a fair tax rate would be for a person making $1 million per year — an income that would put someone in the top tenth of the top one percent of taxpayers. Seventeen percent of Americans said that 10 percent was the most one should pay and 29 percent said that 20 percent was the maximum.

- In other words, 46 percent of the American people think that millionaires today are already overtaxed, paying about 28 percent of their income to the federal government when 20 percent is the most they ought to pay.
- Only 21 percent of people in the survey agreed with Sen. John Kerry that tax rates should be higher than 30 percent.

Lest one think that this is an isolated result, there are other polls with similar findings. A 2001 Fox News poll asked people the highest percentage of taxes anyone should have to pay.

- Some 52 percent said 20 percent was the most anyone should pay.
- Only 9 percent of people favored rates above 30 percent.
- Another Fox News poll in 1999 found 65 percent of people saying that 20 percent should be the maximum tax rate.

Remember, this is ALL income taxes, not just the federal income tax. Polls have consistently shown the results you’ve just seen for decades.

This is why you will almost never, if ever, hear the Charlie Rangel/Hillary Clinton crowd, whom I am tentatively naming “Team Chillary” (in honor of what they will do to the economy if they get their way), actually say that they want to raise the highest federal bracket to 39% or so with their MOAT, and then to 44% or so if the tax system in place since 2003 otherwise goes back to where it was in 2000 (this is usually referred to as “repealing the Bush tax cuts,” but should be seen as a big tax increase over what we’ve been used to now for many years). Instead they speak of tiny-sounding 4% surtaxes and the like.

This final item is posted as a separate entry at Wide Open.

Positivity: History Repeats Itself as Iraqi Soldiers Donate Money Towards American Disaster Relief

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:02 am

From Richard S. Lowry’s Opfor web site:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20071026-01
October 26, 2007

Iraqi Army at Besmaya Installation Support San Diego Fire Victims

By U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Charlene Sipperly
Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Public Affairs

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims Thursday night at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony to support Besmaya’s San Diego residents.

Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel Maxfield, Besmaya Range Complex officer in charge, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, to send to the fire victims in California.

The money was collected from Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers in Besmaya. In a speech given during the presentation, Col. Abbass stated that he and the Iraqi soldiers were connected with the American people in many ways, and they will not forget the help that the American government has given the Iraqi people. Abbass was honored to participate by sending a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego, to lower the suffering felt by the tragedy.

This is not an unprecedented act, as what follows was picked up at BizzyBlog in September 2005.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

(September 12, 2005 post)

Iraqi soldiers have donated to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

TAJI, Iraq, Sept. 9, 2005 — Iraqi soldiers serving at Taji military base collected 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Iraqi Col. Abbas Fadhil, Iraqi base commander, presented the money to U.S. Col. Paul D. Linkenhoker, Taji Coalition base commander, at a Sept. 5 staff meeting.

“We are all brothers,” said Abbas. “When one suffers tragedy, we all suffer their pain.”

The amount of money is small in American dollars – roughly $680 – but it represents a huge act of compassion from Iraqi soldiers to their American counterparts, said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Goyne.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of their generosity,” Goyne said. “I was proud and happy to know Col. Abbas, his officers, NCOs and fellow soldiers. That amount represents a month’s salary for most of those soldiers.”

Abbas read a letter he wrote after giving the envelope to Linkenhoker.

“I am Colonel Abbas Fadhil; Tadji Military Base Commander,” Abbas wrote. “On behalf of myself and all the People of Tadji Military Base; I would like to console the American People and Government for getting this horrible disaster. So we would like to donate 1.000.000 Iraqi Dinars to help the government and the People also I would like to console all the ASTs who helped us rebuilding our country and our Army. We appreciate the American’s help and support. Thank you.”

October 28, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (102807)

This is worth watching (scroll down a little past halfway) — “Stan Lee swears $225,000 reported by Hillary Clinton to the FEC was not his!” That would be Stan Lee of Spiderman and other comic-book character fame.

Also worth noting: The guest list at the event in question (scroll down to the bottom).

Finally, there’s this.

These things would bury the candidacy of anyone, Democrat or Republican, not named Hillary Clinton. Why shouldn’t it bury hers?

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Don Surber, in an article primarily about the how the press doesn’t seem to mind how much money is in political campaigns now that Democrats are getting most of it, starts with this nugget about Team Hillary:

HILLARY Clinton’s campaign for president is a bigger business than the city of Charleston (WV). As of Sept. 30, she had hired 697 people, and raised just slightly less than $80 million.
Charleston’s budget is less than $70 million.

It takes a village.

It figures that the City of Charleston would have more employees (850 as of 2005) and spend less money.

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Keith Ellison’s fact on Paul Wellstone’s death are very shaky.

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Melanie Scarborough, on police overaccommodation of protesters (HT Instapundit):

Just because a few protesters arrive in town, police make life a nightmare for everyone else. And they do so not because it’s necessary for security, but because it’s convenient for them.

Now, there’s something to protest.

Indeed.

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Is the New York Times a buyout candidate? I think this comment at Don Surber’s blog post on the topic reflects a more likely and stumbled-upon scenario:

Far more likely than a takeover is a leveraged buyout by the Sulzberger family. If the Sulzberger clan can get the financing the low stock price will be a boon.

Was that the plan? Put half-wit Pinch in charge, drive down the stock price and then re-purchase at a low cost.

NYT stock, which closed the week at $20.32, is worth at least $3 billion less than it was just 5 years ago. That’s a high price to pay for Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Positivity: New Mexico’s miracle Child of the Year’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 11:35 am

From Bloomfield, NM:

10/20/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

There are true stories of terrible accidents and heartbreaking recovery more moving than the most well-written movie scripts.

The facts regarding how Steffan Hobbs’ life changed, and nearly ended, on May 12, 2000, when he was hit by a pickup truck after wandering out onto U.S. 64 on his bicycle, is one such story.

The 13-year-old Mesa Alta Junior High eighth-grader should be dead. The accident was so bad that his legs snapped in half and his skull shattered in parts.

“He was not expected to survive,” said his mother, Janet Hobbs.

Janet, who found her son moments after the accident and still has nightmares about the scene, can’t believe her son has made this much progress.

One medical emergency followed another: Steffan’s internal organs swelled, significant portions of his brain and skull needed to be removed, and his brain activity was minimal until early June 2000.

Even after pulling through multiple head surgeries, through reconstructive surgery on his face and eye socket, and speech and movement rehabilitation, Steffan wasn’t in the clear. Two days after the two-year anniversary of his accident, Steffan had a violent 22-minute seizure that was so serious it caused his skin to turn blue.

After that seizure, and to everyone’s surprise, Steffan’s health began to improve significantly. The story of his progress has proven remarkably upbeat.

For as miraculous as Steffan’s recovery has been, Janet has no doubt that if it were not for the treatment her son received at the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital in Albuquerque, he would not be the person he is today. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

October 27, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (102707)

You really have to wonder how obsessed one person (and it IS apparently one person) has to be to cause this. It needs to be reversed immediately.

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I was getting worried about whether an Internet tax moratorium extension will get passed. It seems more likely now, but it still looks like it will go down to the wire.

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I have to wonder if the controversy over James Watson’s racial-intelligence comments would have turned out differently if he had framed it in the context of nutrition, particularly malnutrition.

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John Edwards’ campaign was upset about this vid, and wanted the folks who shot it to take it down. You’ve got to be kidding me.

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Jihad Watch has an initial reax to the Plain Dealer’s blog piece (now also an article that will apparently appear in Sunday’s Plain Dealer in print) on Ahmed Alzaree’s imminent ascension to imam at the Islamic Center of Cleveland. The PD’s piece followed the appearance of yours truly’s two-parter on Alzaree at Wide Open (here and here) by about 5 hours. Check out some of the comments.

Positivity: Off-duty auxiliary officer hailed as hero for saving RCMP officer

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:59 am

From Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada:

October 22, 2007
An RCMP auxiliary officer is the talk of the town at Peguis First Nation for saving an RCMP officer from being drowned in a ditch Saturday afternoon.

The female officer was handcuffing a man when he allegedly pushed her to the ground and rolled her into a watery ditch. He was pushing her face underwater as off-duty auxiliary officer Dave Raynor was driving by.

He saw the struggle and slammed on the brakes, telling his step-daughter to stay put while he took off after the man.

“He was pushing her head under the water. I stopped and jumped out of the car and he stopped right there and then he was running down the highway.”

Raynor chased down the man and detained him until the officer could finish cuffing him.

“I knew he had to be detained and I chased him about 80 yards. He was still resisting arrest when I tackled him to the ground,” said Raynor, 28.

Raynor was born and raised at Peguis where he holds down a job as youth worker when he’s not on duty as an auxiliary police officer.
The officer was not injured and the community of nearly 6,000 is hailing Raynor as a hero.

Go here for the rest of the story.